March 23, 2007
Gratuitous Buck Blogging
Certainly the series needed to pull itself out of the lameness it had descended into with “Planet of the Amazon Women”, especially since they were smack in the middle of November sweeps. NBC decided to tap into one of its prime-time resources to bring you:
Ep. 1.11 “Cosmic Whiz Kid” (11/15/79)
What are the chances of a man from the 20th century ending up in the 25th century? Pretty long odds, eh? No, wait. How about this: TWO people from the 20th century – from the same era, no less – showing up five hundred years later? Impossible? Don’t you bet on it.
Talk about a coincidence. Eleven-year old Hieronymus Fox, boy genius, creates a cryogenic freeze chamber just in time for the Apocalypse. He’s revived a couple of years before Buck Rogers appears floating around the solar system. Except that he ends up in the hands of the people of the planet Genesia. How? Honestly, I forgot. But he’s so cute and so smart they make him their President. Not a bad gig, if you can get it.
So who do they get to play this brilliant child?
Why Gary Coleman of course. OK, he’s probably not the first name that comes to mind when you think of boy genius but he certainly was precocious enough to be entertaining in the role. Maybe if the show came around about a decade later we would have seen Doogie Howser as Hieronymous Fox?
Todd Bridges wanted to be on the show too? Is he smoking crack or something?
The problem is that this is a kid who’s obviously very streetwise and people-savvy. Not exactly what you’d expect for an eleven year old with a PhD and the ability to build his own cryogenic freezing chamber. Anyway, we’ll cut him some slack because he does that cute little “double-take” look when something takes him by surprise.
So what’s the problem? Well, Fox’s intelligence is so astounding that the little guy is apparently worth quite a bit on the open market. Enter Roderick Zale, who kidnaps him for ransom. Buck and Wilma naturally are asked to help find him and return him to the Genesians. Why Buck and Wilma? Honestly, I forget that too. The price for ransom is 6,000 kilograms of pure quadrillium. What’s quadrillium? How the hell should I know? Stop trying to trip me up with silly plot points that don’t matter. Although I find it interesting that even though the United States was able to ignore the metric system it was somehow able to catch on throughout the galaxy. Damn Europeans!
Zale is played by Ray Walston a/k/a Mr. Hand from “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”. Walston does a great job being the bad guy but I kept expecting him to hand Fox a pop quiz on the Platt Amendment and ask him if he was on dope. And Fox does his best to bust his captor's apple bag at every turn. Usually he's demanding something to eat, like cheeseburgers.
Food will be eaten on YOUR time, Mr. Fox. Why must you shamelessly waste my time like this?
Fortunately, there is more Wilma in this one. In fact she is the first one to find the diminutive President as he pulls a little "hide in the service droid" routine and ends up escaping down a garbage chute.
Actually, this was a good opportunity for Erin Gray to prepare herself for working with precocious child stars which she would have to do for her later role in “Silver Spoons”.
The lovely Col. Deering comes to the rescue!
One other character of interest is a hired “terminator” named Toman that Zale sends to take care of Buck. He’s this little old guy who looks like an accountant. But watch out. The heavy gravity on his home planet gives him extraordinary strength when he’s on other worlds. Obviously bitter about getting sand kicked in his face his whole life, he becomes a hired thug on planets where he’s a regular Charles Atlas. Buck, however, manages to escape his run-in with Toman and thankfully Wilma wasn’t present to see him get his mud hole stomped by a dude in his fifties who’s all of five feet nothing and 105 pounds soaking wet.
One piece of trivia featured in this episode is that Buck programs his apartment stereo system to play his favorite song – “Shambala” by Three Dog Night.
Episode rating: Must See (You’ll keep expecting Coleman to stick out his lower lip and say “whatchutalkin’ about” but you’ll be relieved when he doesn’t. Plus there’s much more Wilma than we've had so far!)
Next up: The return of Princess Ardala and Buck's "Escape From Wedded Bliss"
The first post in this series can be found here.